Near Salvador, Brazil, a Paradisiacal Place to Disconnect

It might be hard to imagine there is any place left in the world that desires to remain untouched and disconnected from modern amenities and the easy money that comes with pleasing tourists, but there is at least one slice of paradise left on Boipeba, Brazil. If a whitewashed cottage sans air-conditioning and cell phone service on a tropical island sounds like your perfect getaway, this article by Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times is for you.

A family from nearby Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, eats crabs at water's edge. Photo by Andre Vieira.

WITH the phone to his ear and a look of exasperation on his face, it was safe to assume that Charles Levitan was chasing yet another would-be guest from his fuss-free collection of whitewashed cottages on Boipeba, a lushly untrammeled island off the coast of Brazil. “No, we don’t have televisions in the room,” he said. “No, we only have fans.” The impish grin on his face suggested the prospective guest had been satisfactorily dissuaded.

It’s not that Mr. Levitan enjoys losing customers. But over the last few years, as this remote island near Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, has gained increasing cachet, he has learned that it is better to have empty rooms at Pousada Santa Clara than peevish guests complaining about Boipeba’s erratic electricity, its absence of motorized transport or the nonexistent night life.

“If you can’t live in the moment, this isn’t the place for you,” he said one morning during my visit last year, seated at the front desk and looking slightly frazzled after enduring weather-related queries from a French doctor. “If you need to constantly know the weather forecast, you might want to go somewhere else.”

Boipeba may lack glamour, but it compensates with ridiculously perfect weather and the kind of vacant, palm-shrouded beaches that make you forget about the pleasures of air-conditioning. For those needing more diversions, there is a rare swath of unmolested Atlantic rain forest to be explored, acres of coral reef and picturesque colonial-era villages where the fish you glimpsed during your afternoon snorkel could very well end up on your dinner plate.

Although there are regular flights from Salvador, whose intoxicating mix of African, European and native Indian cultures would be reason enough to visit this part of the world, most visitors still arrive the old-fashioned way: a four-hour trip by ferry, bus and speedboat. Once docked at Velha Boipeba, a cobblestoned hamlet that’s home to the bulk of the island’s 1,600 residents, most guests trudge their way across the beach to one of three dozen guesthouses, a number that has been growing each year. It is not a venture for the high-heeled Jimmy Choo set.

Near Salvador, Brazil, a Paradisiacal Place to Disconnect